Here are some examples of advice given by various posters in the past week:
“AP tests and classes are tougher because school is trying to get them ready for the AP test in April. Freshman is pretty young to be taking AP. It doesn't matter how many APs she takes. Her un-weighted GPA matters more for college admission. She needs to keep her grades up.”
“Ivy's [sic] have the advantage of connections, as do some elite schools. Also to factor is if your child wants to attend medical school (very competitive) then a name and the connections are worth it!”
“Take both the SAT and ACT early and often. Scholarships and admissions are based on just the highest score on either test, and every point increase means an increase in scholarship money.”
What do all these well-intentioned pieces of advice have in common? They are wrong. Following this advice could/would leave to worse outcomes for the student (and family paying the tuition bill).
I want to use this post to give a strong caution in the crowd-sourcing of college admissions advice. For whatever reason, there is a lot of misinformation out there, but no lack of people who are happy (albeit well-intentioned) in giving it. Following that misinformation could be to the detriment of the student. So what is a family to do? And where exactly can you get smart answers? Here are some ideas:
- Talk to your high school counselor – Your counselor is your first point of reference for college counseling advice. If your school has a dedicated college counselor, then that’s your first stop. If you have a “regular” counselor (who does college plus everything else), first thank them – they are busy people who do good work. Second, ask their advice, too! I understand, however, that your counselor may be very busy with many students and may not have time to walk you through every step or give you one-on-one advice about your college list/testing/class choices. And sometimes your counselor may not be able to because she hasn’t been trained in college admissions counseling. But your counselor is still your first stop, and if you need more support or advice or knowledge than she can provide, she will let you know that, likely pointing you in a direction where you can seek out more information on your own.
- The admissions officers at your colleges of interest – don’t be afraid to reach out. These are wonderful people passionate about providing good information and access (I know, I was one!). I think many students have a fear of asking a question because they think not knowing the answer is a sign of weakness that will tarnish their application once submitted. This is not true. Students, use the admissions officers at your colleges as resources to get answers to questions about the process and the school/major/program you are interested in. One note of caution here: you’ll notice the advice is for students to reach out. Parents often want to do this for the student. Colleges may see this as a warning sign the student is not ready for the independence of college life. It’s hard, but the student has to be the one sending the emails/making the phone calls. And parents, we know when it’s you emailing from your student’s account – this is not our first rodeo (yes, that happens a lot!). :)
- Get advice from an independent college counselor -- An independent college can support families beyond what can be provided through school or other sources. Statistically, about 26% of students attending selective colleges use an independent consultant. However, as I remind families inquiring about services, this means most families do not. The process of applying to college and getting in is not an insurmountable task (even though I know it might feel that way), but you have to be smart about where you get your advice and be proactive about doing things right and doing them early. If you are considering a counselor, make sure he or she is a member of either the IECA or HECA. These are professional organizations that maintain high standards of membership (remember all that bad information being passed around out there? You won’t get that from a college counselor who belongs to HECA or the IECA).
I meet with many families during workshops, seminars, or in private consultation that report back information they heard elsewhere that is just flat out wrong. I don’t believe there should be a pay wall to getting smart information for college, which is why I find this so frustrating. If you ever have a question about college, whether you are a student on my “roster” or not, please send me an email. I am happy to answer questions. I started this business out of a passion for the power of higher education, and I believe all students deserve their best chance to get it. There are many sources of good information (high school counselors, admissions officers, college counselors), and what’s important is you find one. Resist the urge to crowd source, and empower your student to be a careful consumer and dedicated discoverer of his or her own information that will lead to the actualization of his or her own goals.